The Learning Leadership Institute and the National Digital Transition Survey come together to recognize this year’s Learning Leadership Institute Award Winners. Awards are given to districts/schools in one broad category, and Teachers in another. Because there is a great deal of difference between the criteria for schools and districts, awards were separated in this year’s annual National Gathering event. These school awards are presented by Learning Counsel CEO LeiLani Cauthen, with help from Matthew Cordes, Associate Superintendent of the Diocese of San Diego (Honorable Mention Award winner) and Jay Fike, Assistant Principal at eCollier Academy (Gainer Award winner), both of whom shared the methods to their madness.

Leading off, Cauthen shared an overview of the school winners, “We're going to talk about the schools that won awards, because we had to separate them from districts. We awarded quite a few schools and we'll speak with them for the next half hour.”

Perhaps the highlight of the video is Jay Fike from eCollier Academy, who gave a very personal take on beginning and running this virtual school, which was created in response to the pandemic. “We, like many virtual programs around the country, were born out of the pandemic, but have a long-term vision of making sure that we can allow students to meet their full potential through digital innovation and our program,” said Fike. “Collier County is located in southwest Florida, almost parallel to Miami. Our program's really important in our public school community because geographically our county is the largest in Florida. Collier County is actually larger than Rhode Island or Delaware. It encompasses a large swath of land and because of that, some of our students on the fringes of our county struggle with access and equity. So our program really helps to bridge that gap.”

When asked about his journey, Fike said, “I think it is both a deeply personal journey and a collective effort. I've always been intrigued by innovation and trying to be on that cutting edge. For that reason, it is a personal journey to be able to be a part of eCollier Virtual Academy. And it's a great collective experiment at the same time. Having that input and having a diverse group of people come together to build something was important. Every year the program looks a little bit different, but the more people I talk to who run virtual schools around the country, especially in the state of Florida, I find that's not unique. Every year truly is almost like a restart and your cohort of students really do kind of dictate how that works because of their pace and, their individualism, which is, is refreshing.

“eCollier Academy exists because students and families want us, and students and families need us. Both of those things are very true depending on the situation. So, we're happy to serve for those families, especially those who need us,” said Fike.

You’ll enjoy this short but informative look at this year’s Learning Leadership Institute School Award Winners. There is plenty to learn, and tips and methods are freely given for you to use.